|"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —|
|I took the one less traveled by,|
|And that has made all
- Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"
Sometimes a K-drama will take a few episodes to get into its real groove, and you'll need to be patient. That actually can prove to be a rather fascinating experience in its own way. Such is the case with the "mockumentary" style Korean drama Producer (2015), with an all star cast including Kim Soo Hyun (My Love From Another Star), Gong Hyo Jin (It's Okay That's Love, Master's Sun), I.U. (Dream High), and Cha Tae Hyun (My Sassy Girl, My Girl And I). The first two episodes were on the dull side, I'll have to be honest, and word must have gotten out about that because the director of the project was changed with episode three and then the show started improving.
I was so anxiously awaiting this drama before it began because of the quality of the cast. I knew Kim Soo Hyun had even bypassed a chance to star in a Frankenstein story K-drama, which would have probably brought in huge ratings around the world, like My Love From Another Star did, for a chance to work with these actors in this far more subtle drama instead, which very much was styled to be a sleeper show rather than a blockbuster hit. Clearly this young man has a mind of his own about which projects are most appealing to him and I find that refreshing and intelligent. The Robert Frost poem he reads during the drama, The Road Not Taken, seems to apply to his own chosen career, as well as to his characters. An actor like Lee Min Ho accepts doing a filthy, perverse movie to try and prove he's a mature man at age 27, whereas stellar Kim Soo Hyun at age 27 knows differently, that cleaner, more subtle and romantic projects win people's hearts far more deeply over the long run. Good for him! May he continue on the straight and narrow path to acting success.
Kim Soo Hyun never disappoints you
in any performance he gives
In this show we go into KBS Studio itself to see how variety show producers come up with ideas for new shows and work hard to make them popular in the ratings. Kim Soo Hyun's character, starry-eyed but awkward and shy Baek Seung Chan, is hired as a new entertainment producer intern and comes under the guidance of two professional producers with lots of experience, Tak Ye Ji (Gong Hyo Jin) and Ra Joon Mo (Cha Tae Hyun). It is revealed that he pursued being hired by KBS simply because a girl he had liked in college works there (cameo appearance by actress Yoon Hee Jo from Nine: Nine Time Travels and The King's Face). However, soon she leaves and he has to adjust and learn new skills in his career path, slowly starting to fall in love with his "sunbae" (senior) at work, Ye Ji, to the consternation of her long time male pal Joon Mo, a friend from their school year days.
Seung Chan is surprised to learn that the two of them are living together in the same apartment across the street from his apartment, but then learns that the situation is financial, not romantic, since Ye Ji is in debt and Joon Mo had kindly offered her and her brother bedrooms in his place until they could afford to move out on their own. Seung Chan is relieved about this state of affairs ... somewhat. While moving in slowly to get closer to Ye Ji, all along he seems to sense that his two sunbaes might actually have a deeper connection than even they suspect, and he sees this as a challenge for him to turn around, to win her heart instead. At first he is brought into close contact with Ye Ji because of a fender bender in the KBS parking lot, which she slowly has to pay him back for (since it's his father's car), but then he finds other excuses to be around her besides financial, like trying to sit next to her in the KBS cafeteria for lunch, or helping her lift heavy packages into Joon Mo's apartment. Puppy love is growing in his heart day by day.
Enter Cindy (I.U.) a young singing superstar over-protected and sometimes even bullied by an older woman agent named Mi Sook Byun (Nah Young Hee), who took her under her wings when her parents died tragically. She had groomed Cindy from being a nobody to being a star, telling her it was important for her image never to admit that her parents were dead, but instead to fabricate fancy identities for them simply to make her look more intriguing to fans. This lie is later to come back to haunt both women. Because she has no freedoms and no friends, Cindy is often dour, unhappy, and has no one to trust.
Then, unexpectedly, she hurts her leg and escapes from Byun to go into hiding at Joon Mo's place for four days! She soon starts to develop a girlish crush on Seung Chan, who visits them often as their ties at work increase and deepen, and since he's such a gentleman Cindy falls hard, and becomes jealous when she realizes he cares for his female sunbae at work. This really seems to be her first ever crush, and it actually starts unexpectedly when Seung Chan brings her an umbrella to protect her from the rain. He makes a big deal about her needing to return it because it belongs to the studio and not him, and if it's not returned the cost will be deducted from his paycheck. From this encounter she identifies him as "Umbrella" on her cell phone contact list, so only she knows who it is. It's really no surprise that the word "unintentional" appears in the titles of the first four episodes of this series. Many things start happening between the characters to bring them closer together that were originally unintentional in nature. For instance, who would suspect a fender bender could start a crush in a young man, that it would be one man, and not the other, who would keep pestering the electric company to light up a walkway that Ye Ji has to walk alone at night in the dark, risking her safety? Or who would charm her more with his singing in a karaoke bar?
Like in a French movie, sharing an
umbrella in the rain can have unexpected
consequences for a gal and a guy in Korea
The drama also delights us with some cameo appearances by big star names like actors Jang Hyuk and Lee Seung Gi. There are also many funny side characters which I started to get a kick out of, but I'll let you discover them for yourself. I think I can pinpoint the exact moment where I started falling in love with the characters. In episode seven, while Cindy is still living with Ye Ji and Joon Mo, they and Seung Chan play a game often seen in Korean variety shows, called the "Of Course" game. You can pick a person in your group to make a bold statement toward and they have to say "Of course!" in agreement, or suffer a penalty. This was new to me because I don't spend any time watching Korean variety shows, with few exceptions. However, the game seems to break the ice between the characters and for the first time I started laughing out loud. Then there were some moving and beautiful scenes at an amusement park, where they all go for Cindy's birthday, and later a soccer game which shows that Seung Chan has finally broken out of his awkward and shy persona and has become much more bold and forthright about his feelings. Then it is left up to Ye Ji what to do. Will she be able to return his feelings? Or will she choose Joon Mo in the end? Then there was another hilarious scene where Seung Chan unintentionally kisses the wrong person. I confess I didn't see that one coming!
The show becomes cuter and funny the more it progresses, and it might even bring you a few tears in certain scenes. The actors were all great, it's the writing in the very beginning that tended to be non-challenging and sometimes puzzling. Overall I enjoyed this drama and was glad I stuck with it. Kim Soo Hyun in particular shines, with a perhaps even warmer performance here compared to My Love From Another Star, the show that made him a super worldwide hit as an actor. As soon as his character gets rid of that awkward deer in the headlights look after the first few episodes he is on his way toward touching your heart big time. I.U. surprised me with the depth of her performance, Her role is much more significant here than it was in Dream High. Gong Hyo Jin is delightful as always, playing a character who really just wants to be loved, and Cha Tae Hyun as the solid as a rock moral Joon Mo reminded me of why I loved him in so many romantic movies of the past decade.
Watching fireworks together for Cindy's birthday ~
Is a new family forming here?
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Producer Screen Captures
Can a fender bender start a lifelong love?